The Day the Monkee Died

By Cindy Phillips updated Wed, Mar 7, 2012 09:15 AM

As I write this column, news of Davy Jones death is about 24 hours old. Boomers get a dose of reality each time a music legend passes away. The day the music dies is a creepy reminder of our own mortality. We all want to live forever and it is the survival of our childhood memories that somehow enable us to stay young. So when one of the memory-creators leaves us, it’s a real kick in the teeth.

Jones was the heart throb member of the band The Monkees. The band members were actually hand-picked to be the stars of a television series, also named The Monkees. The best way I can describe the show is The Beatles meet the Three Stooges. Each week, the struggling band members got caught up in zany capers that put I Love Lucy episodes to shame.

Davy, Mike, Peter and Mickey weren’t taken seriously as musicians at the inception of the show. In fact, the boys were forbidden to play their instruments when they performed. They only provided the vocals. It wasn’t until the band started performing live concerts that they were able to prove their musical talents were as keen as their comedic aptitude.

The Monkees television show only lasted for two seasons, but for those 58 shows my routine never wavered. On Mondays after school, I tackled homework as soon as I got home. If I finished quickly enough, it left a little time for outside play with the other kids who lived on the block. But I wanted to be back inside early enough to take my bath before dinner. With the show airing at 7:30 p.m., there was but a small window of time between dinner and the start of the show to help clear the table, dry the dishes after mom washed them, lay out clothes for the next day and set my hair with sponge rollers.

I wanted to be sure I was seated cross-legged in front of the TV before the first note of the theme song rang out. My sister and I both sang along – “Hey, hey we’re the Monkees, and people say we monkey around. But we’re too busy singing, to put anybody down.” I think even then we knew they were corny lyrics, but it didn’t stop us from grinning ear-to-ear.

Most girls were in love with Davy Jones, the short-statured, long-haired front man with the English accent. I was actually a Mike Nesmith fan myself, admiring the tall, dark-haired cutie who always wore a hat. Mickey Dolenz was the band’s drummer. He already had a claim to fame as the star of Circus Boy in the 1950s. Though some of the girls chose Mickey as their Monkee fave, he was never really known as the good-looking one. Mickey’s Monkee persona was the crazy guy. Peter Tork was a combination of quiet shyness and goofy cuteness. He sometimes got the girl, but success in that arena was typically Davy’s.

Though the show lacked longevity, it did make an impact and garnered two Emmy’s. Syndication kept it alive, mostly in Saturday morning time slots. The band went on to record several albums and plenty of hit songs that remain alive today including Day Dream Believer, The Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday. I love catching a Monkees song on an oldies station and jump right in to sing the lyrics. But I also had some lesser known faves such as Shades of Gray, Saturday’s Child and Valleri.

By the way, for all you trivia lovers, did you know?

For a short period while touring, the Monkees opening act was Jimi Hendrix. They figured out quickly that they might not be a good fit.

Stephen Stills was turned down at the Monkees TV show try-outs. The reason – crooked teeth. Peter Tork got picked instead.

Davy Jones appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the same night as The Beatles. He was with the Broadway cast of Oliver.

Rest in Peace, Davy Jones. You will be in some good company in that great big rock and roll band in the nether world. Tell John and George we miss them too.


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